2007 Jul 01
Manticore Technology Virtual Touchstone
by David M. Raab
DM News
July, pilule 2007

The division of labor between marketing and sales used to be quite clear: marketing sent campaigns to customer and prospect lists, rx and handed the resulting leads to sales for follow up. The technical distinction was similarly sharp: marketing systems were designed for mass queries while sales systems were built to process individual transactions. An aggressive sales person might maintain her own customer list and send an occasional mailing, but she’d do it with whatever technology she had available.

Today, both the organizational and technical boundaries have crumbled. Sales departments conduct sophisticated direct marketing programs, delivering multi-step streams of targeted mail, email and Web pages. And they’re doing this directly within their sales systems, not in a separate marketing database. (The change goes the other way too—today’s customized, event-triggered marketing campaigns mimic the communications of a good sales person. But that’s a topic for another day.)

Virtual Touchstone (Manticore Technology, 512-241-3780, www.manticoretechnology.com) represents a logical extension of the marketing-within-sales trend: it adds serious marketing campaign capabilities to the leading hosted sales software system, salesforce.com. Technically, the software is hosted by Manticore and runs outside of the salesforce.com infrastructure. In fact, about 30% of the current installations run without a salesforce.com connection. But in most cases, the sales software provides the foundation, including the customer database. Virtual Touchstone appears as a tab on the salesforce.com interface.

Few people outside of the technology department will care that Manticore takes this approach. What matters to end-users, both in sales and marketing, is what the system lets them do. Manticore provides a range of capabilities that should be more than adequate for most companies’ needs.

As with any marketing system, the core functionality is creating lists and assigning them to campaigns. Lists are built by defining criteria for up to five data elements on the customer record. These can include custom elements created in either salesforce.com or Manticore itself. Users can view the names on a list and drill down to see the related salesforce.com and Manticore data for an individual. They can create multiple lists and can replace or append one list with another. Once a list is created, its membership will be updated automatically as changes in the underlying data result in different people meeting the list criteria.

Lists are attached to campaigns. These are created as a flow chart by connecting decisions and processes. When users set up a campaign in Manticore, the system automatically adds a corresponding campaign in salesforce.com.

“Decisions” check for user behavior such as having opened an email, visited a Web site, or filled out a registration form. Manticore provides only about ten decisions and does not let users create their own. But decisions can check for a specified value in any custom data field. Since this encompasses just about any behavior a user can define, the limitation is not as painful as it sounds.

“Processes” are actions taken by the system, such as sending an email, scheduling a task in a salesforce.com, sending an alert to a salesperson, adding or removing the customer from a list, or sending the customer to another process. Processes can also specify a waiting period for multi-step marketing programs with a delay between each message.

Even though processes can adjust list membership of an individual, the initial step of attaching a list to a campaign must be taken manually. Users can also add individual customers to a process from within salesforce.com, without using lists at all. The system automatically checks submitted records against people currently active in a given process, and will not add someone who is already present. Users can also create a list of people who cannot be added to any process. But the system cannot exclude members of specific lists from specific processes. This reflects a more general limitation: list membership cannot be an element in system queries.

Manticore campaigns run as batch processes, reexecuting every 15 minutes to check for new data. The system also supports rules, which execute immediately when a specified event takes place. Rules can manage real-time interactions such as opening a popup window when a visitor reaches a particular Web page.

The system provides some content management. Users can import HTML pages for Web forms and emails, and then insert data fields for personalization, form elements for data capture, and links to other Web pages. Users can edit the text on these pages but not change the graphics or create a new page from scratch. Personalized landing pages can be created this way and attached to emails sent by the system.

Email execution includes common features such as previews, transmission scheduling, bounce processing, and delivery reports. The system can customize an email so it looks like it came from the salesperson associated with the recipient’s account in salesforce.com.

Behavior tracking is fairly robust, reflecting Manticore’s origins as a Web analytics vendor. The system can place a tracking tag on a Web page or email. This will notify Manticore when the item has been opened and can be used to trigger other events within the system. Manticore can automatically look up the company associated with a visitor’s IP address and build a history file of that address’s behavior. Campaign processes and rules can then access this history to customize Web page treatments for the address. The system can also deposit cookies on visitor computers to track behavior over time.

Additional functions help to manage pay per click campaigns in Google Adwords. For each keyword, Manticore reports the number of clicks, initial and return visits, and user-specified goals such as submitting a registration form or reaching a checkout page. The system does not import costs or perform related financial calculations.

Pricing is based on email volume and starts at $3,000 per month for 10,000 emails. All modules are included in the base price, which also includes online training and technical support. According the vendor, salesforce.com integration takes less than one hour. Manticore was founded in 2001 and has about 45 current installations of Virtual Touchstone.

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David M. Raab is a Principal at Raab Associates Inc., a consultancy specializing in marketing technology and analytics. He can be reached at draab@raabassociates.com.

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